Nicole A. Elliott Staff writer

The 35th annual Drums Along the Mohawk drum and bugle corps competition will welcome the Oregon Crusaders for the Aug. 1 show, making it the first time the corps has competed in Rome.

On Aug. 7 of last year, the Oregon Crusaders crowned an undefeated year with their first Drum Corps International Open Class World Championship. With a score of 95.25 out of 100, they achieved near-perfection of their show entitled, "Dreaming in Color." The corps had been reigning silver medalists in the last two years.

In just five years, the Oregon Crusaders grew from seven brass players and four colorguard who showed up for their first rehearsal back in 2007 to 132 brass, percussion and colorguard performers who hit the field in 2012.

Tom Strecker, assistant tour director of the Crusaders, said normally his drum corps would be performing in the Mid-west and Michigan area at the time they will be at Drums Along the Mohawk this year.

"The big thing that’s different," now that the Crusaders are world-class "is that we’re going further south and east than we have in the past," Stricker said. "But this won’t be the first time we’ve ever been in New York state. About two years ago we were invited to take part in the Lucille Ball parade in July in her hometown of Jamestown, N.Y."

This season the Oregon Crusaders have "turned up" their level of production, from more props to faster-paced drills, Stricker said. Because the Crusaders won the Open Class championship last year, they were able to up-grade to the world-class category for the first time this year.

The title of the Crusaders performance is, "My Heart. My Battle. My Soul."

"It’s a story about lost love and the journey to deal with that," Stricker explained. "It centers around a female character and she’s lost her husband or boyfriend. It shows the memories of her times with him and at the end of the show, she lets go of holding on so close to him. It’s a very emotional show."

But while the theme may seem melancholy, Stricker said there’s still a mix of upbeat excitement.

"There’s still a lot of different moods expressed," he said. "We go from jubilant to almost sad, but it’s an in-depth emotions type thing. It’s all done with a Southern theme, so definitely think New Orleans."

As "Oregon’s Major League Team" in marching music, the Oregon Crusaders is a non-profit youth performing arts organization that provides education through performance in the areas of percussion, brass, dance and visual ensemble performance. The Oregon Crusaders drum corps and the OC Indoor winter percussion ensemble tour the nation each year, providing its members with valuable performance, musical training and life experience. The Oregon Crusaders drum corps is the current reigning silver medalist nation-wide in Open Class drum corps, while OC Indoor is a reigning World Class drumline finalist in Winter Guard International.

Stricker said the Crusaders hoped to finish around 15th at the end of their first world-class season.

"We’re currently sitting at 17th, but we’re within reach of two other drum corps ahead of us," he said.

While he nor the Crusaders have ever visited Rome, Stricker said he looks forward to the welcoming reception they expect to receive.

"Our biggest surprise that we heard about the Rome show is that the local organizations get together and host and feed the corps," he said. "I know that will be especially appreciated by our support crew who is used to making the meals and our corps."